Roommate tip – ask to see the lease

Most Chicago landlords have a “one roommate per bedroom” policy. And most Chicago tenants have never read their lease.

If you’re scanning Craigslist’s Roommate section you’ll often see ads for doubling and tripling-up in bedrooms. Keeping the rent down is all good, right?

Here’s a typical ad:

Looking for a female roommate to share the master suite of a beautiful 3 bedroom Lincoln Park duplex condo beginning Sept 1.

Large master bedroom
HUGE walk-in closet
Private bathroom
Hardwood floors
updates appliances

This spacious condo is located just 2 blocks away from the DePaul Lincoln Park campus and Fullerton CTA station. We are a group of fun, outgoing college students in our early twenties (3 girls, 1 guy) who are looking for someone with a good attitude who will be a great addition to our home.

If you’re a risk-taker, go for it without any further checking. If you’re more conservative, take account of the possibility that your occupancy might a) violate the lease; b) violate zoning restrictions; and / or c) run afoul of condo restrictions. Any one of these possibilities might expose you to involuntary eviction, a blemish on your credit rating and difficulty in leasing on your own in the future.

At a bare minimum you ought to ask to see and review the lease before entering into a roommate situation. The risk of eviction is generally low even if your occupancy constitutes a violation of the lease, zoning restrictions or condo rules. Is it a risk you’re comfortable running?

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